Such an easy question posed in the title of this week’s article, with an equally obvious answer: Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Were it not for Messiah Jesus and what he did before, during, and after the cross, there would be no entrance into heaven nor any place for us in the future Kingdom of God on earth. Believers will have the awesome privilege of going back and forth between heaven and earth during the Millennium and throughout Eternity.

Next question: After Jesus, is there anyone you especially want to see soon after your arrival in heaven? Keep reading for the opportunity and reason to think about that question, which extends beyond loved ones. But first, let’s get back to Jesus.

“Jesus replied (to Nicodemus), ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God’” (John 3:3, parenthesis mine).

And in order to be born again (spiritually), there is only one thing that the Lord requires of us:

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.’

“They replied, ‘We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?’

“Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:26-29, italics for emphasis).

Years later the Apostle Paul reinforced this profound yet simple truth of salvation to reconcile us back to God and, thereby, seal us with that same approval that God has for his beloved Son, Messiah Jesus.

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood… God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

That is the Good News of the Gospel.

Is there bad news? Unfortunately, there is. Not the news itself. Rather, for those who have not believed and received Jesus as personal Savior, the question posed in the title of this week’s article is irrelevant. In order to see or be with anyone in heaven, they must first be born-again.

Other than Messiah Jesus

Next to Jesus, the question of whom believers most want to see in heaven also has an obvious answer: family or, perhaps for some, very close friends. With, of course, the compassionate hope that their loved ones will be in heaven. I think the majority of people—both believers and unbelievers (who are mistakenly relying on the presumption that they will qualify for heaven based mostly on their good deeds outweighing the bad)—look forward to being reunited with their spouse.

Which, however, poses a problem. If, that is, there will be problems as such in heaven. Which there won’t be because we can’t even imagine how wonderful or how much better all things will be in our eternal paradise. But we can know this: heaven is problem-free!

For example: “…Look, God’s home is now among his people. He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:3-5).

(Please see Eye of Prophecy article, To Be or Not to Be in Heaven (A Revisit). Posted 5-6-17. Scroll down near the end of the article to heading of Heaven is a Place, But Not For Some Things!)

Spouses

The “problem” alluded to can be best understood by those who have had more than one spouse in their lifetime. Which one would they like to greet first in heaven? Or not at all—in case of a divorce! Actually, even divorced couples will rejoice that both are there. What about a woman who remarries after her first husband died? Who, at the end of her life, realized she loved both men the same.

Let’s look at what Jesus, himself, said about this issue. His explanation was in the context of the question of resurrection of the dead, which the Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed in, but not their rival group, the Sadducees. In one of several attempts to trap Jesus into saying or doing something that the religious leaders could hold against him or even prove him wrong (which they never were able to do, including some amazingly awesome answers from Jesus), we read:

“Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: ‘Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. Well, suppose there were seven brothers…” (Mark 12:18-20).

The religious leaders went on to say (their example wouldn’t have been so absurd had they stopped with say two or three brothers) that the seven brothers married her in succession, but each died without conceiving a child with the woman. She then died, childless. Their question:

“So, tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her” (Verse 23).

Jesus corrected them:

“Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry or be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels of heaven. But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error” (Mark 12:24-27).

Jesus plainly told the religious leaders (of all people) that their most serious error was not knowing their own Scriptures. The single greatest error made by so very many, then and now, is passively ignoring the Bible or actively rejecting it as the source of God’s absolute truth. It is sixty-six books of accurate history, detailing people, places, and events; telling us about the fall of man, and God’s remedy through the prophesied Messiah who would bring salvation to all who would believe what he said and did.

All beginning with God choosing Israel as his special people and land to bring forth a Redeemer for Jew and Gentile alike. The Bible is replete with astounding miracles that God and His Son have performed, alongside the astonishing fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies to prove that He alone is God, and His Son is the only Savior.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even the best of long-term marriages are imperfect and can’t compare to the ultimate rapport and unity of all believers in heaven. If a man or a woman deeply loved their spouse during two (or maybe even three) marriages on earth, then which one should they be with in heaven? Answer: Both, but not as husband and wife. Rather, as transfigured believers with new spiritual bodies and minds—worshipping, praising, and serving the Lord undefiled forever. Along with the host of heaven; with, perhaps, a little more bond to those they loved while on the earth.

Mothers, Fathers, Children, Sisters, and Brothers

Next to Jesus and then spouses, it’s logical that most people will first want to see their immediate family members or perhaps a very dear friend in heaven. For many it would be a mother and/or father, or child, followed by siblings. Or, maybe all at the same time. Once again, let’s put this in perspective of what Jesus said and did. Let’s get his view on family, but with a warning: His standpoint is in the context of something that supersedes even family—immediate or extended–relationships.

Before we look at a couple of passages on that subject, we can better grasp the dynamics of what’s going on with a brief review of where it all began.

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Along with human beings and everything else that God created (which was everything!) we read: “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31).

One day soon, it will be as good as or even better than it was in the beginning!

God created Adam from the dust of the ground (all the component parts of a human being can be found in the elements of the earth). Then the Lord gave the man the best gift that any man could or should ever want or need, in terms of human companionship on this earth.

“So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep (God’s anesthesia!). While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21-22, parenthesis obviously mine).

And what was Adam’s response? “At last! … This one is bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (Genesis 2:23-24).

Then we’re told about Cain, the first child born to Eve.

“Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel…” (Genesis 4:2)

Most people, even unbelievers, know the story of the first murder when Cain killed his own brother—a direct second generation result of the sin nature that had been inherited by Adam and Eve’s children … passed down to this very day. But then we read:

“When Adam was 130 years old, he became the father of a son who was just like him—in his very image. He named his son, Seth. After the birth of Seth, Adam lived another 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:3-4).

Thus, we see the vital significance of husband and wife and children—brothers and sisters—as the foundational bedrock of the God-given institutions of marriage and family. In fact, the Lord draws on that paradigm to illustrate that all believers in Christ are his bride (Ephesians 5:21-33). If we accept God’s salvation, then we also have the awesome privilege of being reborn into the family of God after we are born the first time into the family of man. Believers are not only Messiah’s bride, but we are God’s children.

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God” (John 1:10-13).

The Lord gives us life and then gives us life again … everlasting!

Jesus and His Family

“Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. There was a crowd sitting around Jesus (something that happened frequently, sometimes crowds of thousands), and someone said, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.’

“Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then he looked at those around him and said, ‘Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:31-35, italics for emphasis, parenthesis mine).

Did Jesus mean that his mother, brothers, and sisters were unimportant or irrelevant to him? Of course not. There are other scenes in the Gospels where it’s clear that Jesus honored his mother and father, and respected his siblings. Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law—perfectly (without sin) keeping all commandments. One of which is to:

But there is something and someone higher and eternally more important than family bonds and identity. Jesus clearly said who and what that was: anyone who does God’s will. They are Messiah’s true family.

And what is God’s will? There is a plethora of both Old and New Testament passages that convey the ultimate will and plan of God for his creation. Beginning with the Messianic promises in the Old Covenant (Testament) and ending with the accomplishment of those prophecies/promises in the New Covenant—centered in Messiah. I’m going to quote just one, but it happens to be the one most are familiar with (both believers and unbelievers).

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB).

“Whoever believes in Him” (Christ) is doing God’s will.

Let’s look at one more passage comparing the human to the spiritual family of God.

One of the more well-known stories in the Gospels is the rich man who asked Jesus, “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).

After Jesus quoted some of the Ten Commandments, including honor your father and mother—with the rich man’s response that he had kept those commandments—we read: “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. ‘There is still one thing you haven’t done … Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’” (Mark 10:21).

It was not a happy ending for the man: “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Verse 22).

Many know what Jesus said next. “…How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God … In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Verses 23 & 25).

We read on: “The disciples were astounded. ‘Then who in the world can be saved?’ they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.’

“Then Peter began to speak up. ‘We’ve given up everything to follow you,’ he said” (Verses 26-28).

Then Jesus drives home the point of this entire scene, which is the truth that he and the Gospel he brought with him to mankind are much more essential and eternal than earthly possessions, prestige, and power.

What every person does with and about Messiah Jesus will literally determine their eternal destiny. It will also determine eternal rewards for those who do believe in Jesus and choose to follow him. Moreover, in his reply to Peter, Jesus includes family relationships that also must be prioritized in the light of who Jesus is and what he would do for the human race.

{In the very next scene Jesus reminded his disciples what would soon happen to him: “…the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again” (Mark 10:33-34)}.

Getting back to Peter’s question, Jesus went on to say:

“Yes … and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be the least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then” (Mark 10:29-31).

Because the Lord has graciously given me the gift of teaching (all believers are given a special gift to serve the Lord—see Romans 12 & I Corinthians 12), I almost always provide my own commentary on Scripture or secular sources quoted in Eye of Prophecy articles. However, the following commentary on the above passage in Mark is from the New Living Translation (Application Study Bible) that I normally quote from unless otherwise noted:

Jesus assured the disciples that anyone who gives up something valuable for his sake will be repaid a hundred times over in this life, although not necessarily in the same way. For example, someone may be rejected by his family for accepting Christ, but he or she will gain the larger family of believers. Along with these rewards, however, we experience persecution because the world hates God. Jesus emphasized persecution to make sure that people do not selfishly follow him only for the rewards.

Jesus explained that in the world to come, the values of the world will be revealed. Those who seek status and importance here will have none in heaven. Those who are humble here will be great in heaven…

As important as spouses and children and our extended families are, our ultimate purpose for being on this earth is to prepare us for eternity. That preparation begins by being “born-again” through total trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah Jesus for forgiveness of sins. In that regard, believer’s brothers and sisters in Christ are our real family. Which makes a flesh and blood brother or sister (or any family member) who is also a believer, even more precious. After we are saved, it’s also by regular reliance on the Holy Spirit that we love, worship, honor, serve, and in general seek the Lord above all else.

“So don’t worry about those things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all you needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33, Words of Jesus).

Jesus Takes the Family Analogy a Step Further

Husbands, Wives, Fathers, Mothers, Children, Brothers, or Sisters. Natural born or adopted. Full or step or half siblings. Blended or unblended families. As wonderful and enduring as family relationships can and should be, the truth of the Gospel exceeds such bonds. One of the greatest joys in any believer’s life is when a family member comes to Christ for salvation. One of the greatest sorrows is when a loved one dies without Christ as their personal Savior.

And who doesn’t want to go to heaven or not go to hell when they die, whether a person believes in either place or not? For God and Christ and heaven and hell are as real as the words you are reading right now. I say this on the authority of God’s Word, in which the God of that Word says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).

The world longs for lasting love and perpetual peace, but not for absolute truth. Most search for the elusive qualities of love and peace in people without including God who IS LOVE (I John 4:8 & 16). Without Christ who IS Peace (Isaiah 9:6). One day soon he and only he will bring permanent peace to the world. However, the first time Jesus came to Planet Earth, he came to bring peace with God. For without peace with God there can be no enduring peace between peoples.

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (Romans 5:1).

That’s why Messiah Jesus was so blunt when he said:

“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword (referring to the spiritual sword which is the Word of God—Scripture). I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own households! If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39, parenthesis mine).

Here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article, One Nation Under (the wrath of) God, posted on 7-4-15, soon after and primarily on the subject of the United States Supreme Court Decision that legalized same-sex marriage:

“Pilate said, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus responded, ‘You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.’ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked…” (John 18:37-38).

We see two things happening in this crucifixion passage: (1) Jesus explaining his mission on coming to this earth … to testify of the truth. Earlier in his ministry he had said that he, himself, was The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He also said the truth would set us free, meaning himself. God’s truth for mankind is that his Son is the only Way to God, his son is Truth itself, and his Son is Life (salvation that comes from God’s great love for the human race which leads to eternal life, John 3:16). (2) Pilate diverted and deflected Messiah’s declaration and explanation of truth by facetiously asking, “What is truth?” With his clear inference that truth is relative to anything and everything; what is true for one isn’t true for another.

Messiah Jesus came to show us God and God’s love. He provided the only Way to God by giving us everlasting Life through his once for all sacrifice for our sins. Notice that the Truth is in the middle of John 14:6. Christ as THE TRUTH connects the way of salvation to the life it produces. Without recognizing that Jesus Christ is absolute truth that everyone needs, there is no way to God or everlasting life from God.

Continuing with the excerpt from the aforementioned article:

Many people (particularly unbelievers and especially those who practice or promote homosexual behavior and/or assert equal rights to a marriage license) claim that love trumps everything else, including truth. Of course it would, because there is no longer any such thing as absolute truth, i.e. given to us by God, himself as found in Scripture, the very Word of God. They refuse to consider real truth; accordingly, they really don’t understand what love is.

First comes truth, then comes love. Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that it is the Truth that sets us free, not love. Without universal divine truth as found in Scripture, we simply cannot and do not understand what love is. We confuse it and substitute it with passion or at the very most, a deep brotherly type affection that is good among people, but apparently not enough to overcome the racial, political, cultural, and religious differences among people, including men and woman.

In fact, marriage is the least likely relationship in which the basic motivation and subsequent words of, “I love you,” or “I promise to love, cherish….” will stand the test of time. The 50% plus divorce rate should tell us that much. We are much more likely to say and mean those same words to a brother, sister, child, parent, or friend forty years from now than a spouse.

Institutions are characterized by and predicated on relationships.

The fundamental components of any relationship are love, honor, and respect; but here we must defer to Scripture’s definition of love and how that love determines the boundaries of relationships, particularly marriage.

Rephrasing the Question of Today’s Article Title

Those of us who are believers in Messiah Jesus passionately anticipate the soon to be glorious return of our Lord, to see him as he really is at the Rapture. Or if by death, to see him first and foremost in heaven. We will also rejoice to be reunited with loved ones, including dear departed friends.

But what about those mighty (in faith and service) men and women of God whose lives and stories are dear to us as found in the Bible. Or, post-Biblical figures down through the ages who have given their all to proclaim the Gospel and to confirm and defend the truth of the Good News? Have you ever thought about which of them you would want most or first to meet in heaven?

The last of the seven major Jewish Festivals—Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles—just ended day before yesterday, October 12th. Many Jews, especially the Orthodox, invite one person in the Bible to “tabernacle” with them each of the seven basic days of this festival, also called the Festival of Shelters. Jewish tradition recommends the invited guests to be: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and King David.

All of the above people except Aaron are also identified in the New Testament book of Hebrews Chapter 11, in what many Bible scholars and teachers call the “Hall of Faith.” Plus ten others such as Noah and Enoch and lesser known names such as Jephthah and Rahab. But also included are, “all the prophets.” As well as: “the people of Israel” when they “went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground.”

Which Bible heroes and heroines of faith would you want to meet right away in heaven? Out of intrigue, curiosity, excitement, to ask them to tell you more about themselves and the stories you’ve read or heard about them.

Who wouldn’t want to listen to Moses depicting in great detail how the waters of the sea stood up like walls? Or to describe the finger of God writing the Ten Commandments on solid stone tablets on Mount Sinai? Or ask Noah how long it took for two of every pair of animals to come to the Ark, and just how amazed he was when they did?

Or an up close and personal explanation by Daniel, spending the night in a den full of hungry lions. Did the lions give him a soothing sleep by purring all night? Could have happened that way!

(Their Given Hebrew Names Were: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Would You Ask Them What Jesus Said to Them While in the Fiery Furnace? Yes, it was the Pre-Incarnate Messiah With Them!)

Pick your favorite man or woman in the Bible and think what they could tell you about what they saw, did, and said that isn’t recorded in Scripture. Just how dumbfounded was Saul when the risen (and ascended) Christ appeared in a blinding light, and jolted him out of unbelief on the road to Damascus … forever changing Saul’s life and even his name to Paul?

My Choice

My personal preference is a man who isn’t even named in Scripture. Other than my Lord and my loved ones—family and a couple of friends—the person I would like to meet and talk to first is found in the following passage:

“At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’

“…Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, ‘This man truly was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:33-39).

This is nothing short of amazing. The Roman officer was a centurion in charge of the death squad that crucified Jesus. Undoubtedly, he had been hardened by many other executions. Most assuredly he was convinced that every man crucified was guilty as charged, including the two thieves on either side of Jesus.

In Luke’s gospel we read: “When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshipped God and said, ‘Surely this man was innocent’” (Luke 23:47).

Between these two accounts, it’s exceptionally evident that this Roman centurion believed on the spot that Jesus was completely innocent of any crime or wrongdoing. Even more: This Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God! Thus, the centurion was born-again that very day along with one of the two thieves on the cross. Astonishing!

I want to ask this Roman: “Why?”

“Why did you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? What made you think he was innocent of trying to overthrow Rome as the King of the Jews? Had you talked to Pontius Pilate or were you there in the courtyard when Pilate said he could find no fault in Jesus? Was it the three hours of total darkness in the middle of the day, or the earthquake that made you think this was no ordinary crucifixion? That this was no ordinary man? Was it anything or everything that Jesus said while dying an excruciating death?

I would say to him, “All of the words of Jesus before the cross and on the cross and after the cross had a powerful influence on my life. But none more so than when he said (after your men had nailed him to the cross): Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing. Did those words soften and change your heart, too?”

I would ask him: “When you acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God and praised God for that fact, did you also realize that his sentence that you carried out would be the source of eternal life for you and for all who would believe in him?”

There are a ton of questions I’d like to ask this commander of Roman soldiers. Or just the one question “Why did you believe?” And let him tell his poignant story of how a Roman officer could possibly believe (let alone publicly say so with his words and actions of worshipping God) Jesus was/is the Son of God before Jesus even arose from the dead!

Things to Ponder

We’ll have literally forever to talk one on one or in groups with every Biblical character in heaven, known and unknown. But that’s certainly not all. Eternity is a very long time! I’m convinced that we will meet every single believer in heaven at one time or another, sooner or later. Actually—since heaven will be timeless—will there be such a thing as sooner or later? Well, we’ll have plenty of time to think about that one!

Then there are the angels. Why wouldn’t we want to pick their angelic mind on what it’s like to be an angel; and listen to their stories about watching over us and protecting us from danger while on earth? Or how good angels fight the bad angels and such things.

Most of all we will echo the words of John:

“…All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6).